Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

What Shepard Smith's Departure Means For Fox; Newsrooms And Networks Are In Impeachment Mode; Trump Spreads False Info About American Troops In Syria; Ronan Farrow Alleges Corporate Cover-Up At NBC. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 13, 2019 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, about how the media really works, how the news gets made and how all of us can help make it better.

So, let's get started. This brand new book "Catch and Kill" by Ronan Farrow has news about Matt Lauer, NBC executives, and what Farrow calls a corporate cover-up. It is an incredible read. David Zurawik and Irin Carmon are going to be here with reaction.

Plus, Peter Wehner, a former Reagan and Bush aide, he says President Trump's condition is worsening. His decline accelerating. Hear from Wenner coming up.

Plus, the legendary journalist Sam Donaldson and so much more.

But we start with a real shock to the television system. Shep Smith resigning from Fox News, throwing up his hands after so many months of tensions with Fox's opinion shows.

Shep had the power to speak truth, to provide a reality check to Fox's viewers who hear pro-Trump talking points all day long. But he won't be there anymore. His last day was Friday.

And I think this is bigger than Fox. It's a sign of what's happening in America and to America, people sorting themselves into tribes, tuning out inconvenient information.

And right now, this phenomenon is most intense on the right, which is why Shep Smith's exit is a cultural moment and why it's shaking up the journalists who are left at Fox. One Fox reporter saying she feels like she's been hit by a bus. Another saying the news is heart heartbreaking and saying, quote, I fear things are going to get much, much worse.

Look, Fox has some excellent journalists, including one on the ground in Syria right now. But the network's journalists are feeling squeezed by the opinion and propaganda players.

So, let's talk with three former faces on Fox, starting with Conor Powell. He was a Fox correspondent for nine years. Full disclosure, he's now freelancing for CNN Newsource.

Also joining me is Julie Roginsky. She's a Democratic strategist who was a paid contributor on Fox shows like "The Five" for six years.

And Carl Cameron, who was Fox's chief political correspondent until 2017.

Thank you all for being here.

Julie, what are your friends at Fox telling you about this news about Shep?

JULIE ROGINSKY, FORMER FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: They're depressed. They're obviously shocked. A lot of them feel like the management is not really managing.

It used to be when Roger Ailes was here, that this kind of the internecine warfare would never be seen on the air. And now that Shep and Tucker Carlson have gone at each other, obviously, Sean Hannity had gone at Shep, as well, a lot of them feel like they're not going to have -- their backs are not going to be protected by the second floor or the people in charge of the network in a way that would have happened before.

So, they are anxious. They are depressed about the facts that the person they believed was their leader and trying to really have a journalistic ethos at Fox is now gone. They're worried about who else may be going as a result of Shep's departure.

And these are not necessarily people who are there as journalists. Some of them are opinion people who still feel like this is a massive, massive loss for the network.

All around, the few people I've spoken to, actually more than a few, the number of people I've spoken to have all been very depressed about this news. Nobody that I spoke to was high-fiving.

STELTER: Well, that's I think more on the journalist sides of Fox. There are detractors that Shep Smith had at Fox. They say he was only on the air for one hour a day. He really wasn't that much of a leader.

I wonder, Conor, if you agree with that at all. How important do you think this moment is?

CONOR POWELL, FORMER FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, for those of us that were journalists and paid to be journalists, I mean, Shepard was really the sort of directional compass for those of us that were journalists.

You know, his voice didn't always make it past his own show. A lot of the other shows sort of ignored what he reported. But at least day in and day out, Shepard's voice was on the channel, and he really provided a lot of direction for those of us who are on the ground, around the world, in the United States trying to be reporters. You take away his voice, you take away not only his voice but his team

around him, which is really crucial to the news organization, and I'm not sure what you're left with. I think you're probably just left with Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson's voice. I'm not sure that's particularly a good thing for the United States.

STELTER: Right now, there's no indication that the producers are leaving, though. I hope they don't leave. There's a lot of great correspondents at Fox. It's just that my impression is they feel they're not getting on the air very much because opinion shows are taking up more and more time.

Is that fair to say, Carl? I mean, you were there up until Trump's inauguration.

CARL CAMERON, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR FOX NEWS: Yes, no, I think it's very true that the news department, the news division at Fox News Channel, has shrunk. And there are an awful lot of really good journalists at Fox News Channel. It's just that they're vastly outnumbered by the opinion makers.

And the opinion makers are more interested in playing to people's bias than anything else. And it makes it very difficult for journalists to actually give people honest facts when the airtime is shrinking constantly.

And that 3:00 hour is critical. Shep now gone, what Fox has said is that they are going to be a rotate rotating series of hosts.


And if those are people like Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum and others, if they're the actual hosts that do news, if they're journalists, then that will be a good sign for the 3:00 hour. And if it's not, if it's opinion mavens, then that will be just another big chunk of real journalism that won't exist there.

STELTER: Yes, and there's other hours, the right-wing conspiracy theories. I mean, look at Jeanine Pirro's show, she had President Trump call in for a softball interview last night.

There was also a left-wing conspiracy theory out there about Shep Smith the other day, and I want to debunk it. There was a report in "The New York Times" that Rupert Murdoch had a meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr, and that's true, they did meet. But it had nothing to do with Smith resigning a day or two later. In fact, Smith had been thinking about this for several weeks. So, I want to put that to rest.

I do think it speaks volumes, though, that people wonder, is someone pulling the strings?

I mean, Julie, people do I think legitimately wonder about the Murdochs and their role in shaping Fox News and bringing it further to the right. ROGINSKY: There's no question. I don't know how much further it

could go to the right. I think there are business interests the Murdochs have that the president and the government of the United States can benefit -- they can benefit from that. And so, as a result, obviously, being on the side of the president, helping the president helps their business interests. I think that's a business decision that they've made.

Having said that, I think there's an absence of leadership at Fox News. When I was there, Carl, when you were there, I think whatever you thought of the leadership, there was a very strong person at the helm who was able to rein a lot of this in. I think today in the absence of what, what you have are people like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity essentially running their own fiefdoms and not really allowing others to have any kind of airtime.

So, I have spoken to a lot of people who are not Democrats or liberals by any stretch of the imagination unless you think that liberalism -- unless you think truth has a liberal bias. These are just people who are fact-checking the president in real time. They're seeing the airtime cut off. They're not seeing as much access to the air as they used to have.

And that's a business decision that I think the Murdochs are making. And I think it's unfortunate because the Fox News audience is not served well by having uncritical views of what the president is saying. There's no dispute about the fact that the president doesn't always say the truth, and unless somebody says that on Fox's air, there's no way the audience would ever know that, and that's really unfortunate.

Shep was very good at that. I hope somebody else does --


STELTER: Julie, you did -- Julie, you did sue Fox for harassment and retaliation. Do you have -- and you mentioned some of these executives who are now in charge. Do you have a personal axe to grind against them?

ROGINSKY: I absolutely have no personal axe to grind against any of them. In fact, the person who I mentioned is no longer there as an executive, neither of the two who I sued personally are there as executives anymore. So I don't.

This is purely from talking to people who are still at Fox who feel very strongly that Roger Ailes, actually whom I did sue, would never have allowed this to happen. This is actually a compliment to Roger Ailes. He was a very strong executive.

STELTER: I hear that quite a bit. Yes, I hear that quite a bit in interviews as well.

CAMERON: Brian, can I --

STELTER: Conor, you were going to jump in? Sorry, Carl, go ahead. Yes, Carl.

CAMERON: Brian, I think one of the things that's important to remember here is that over the years, there was not a history of Fox opinion hosts criticizing the journalists. And over the course of the Trump administration, more and more the opinion hosts have been criticizing the journalists. And so, that really pits bias against straight journalism.

And I think Julie's pretty much nailed it. That's a huge part of what frustrates the journalists at Fox News --


CAMERON: -- because they shouldn't be arguing with people who are there to comment on the news and completely neglect what was just reported by the journalists.

STELTER: And a lot of Fox critics say those journalists are complicit by staying at Fox. The journalists there tell me they're just trying to make the network better, trying to do the right thing.

So, Conor, last word to you. I mean, as someone who worked with Shep, how did he make you a better journalist? How did he improve your work?

POWELL: So, one of the things that he did and I loved being on his show, because his show, his entire sort of organization, pushed you to give the fuller context.

I think one of the things that's tough about reporting at Fox is there are a lot of anchors who wanted to stay in a narrow lane and answer questions and look at a story from a very specific point of view. Shepard always made sure that you brought in the full context of a story and so that key details didn't get lost in your reporting.

That's something that Shepard specifically did that a lot of other hosts didn't do, at least for myself and in terms of reporting overseas. He wanted a fuller context, even on the days where Shep wasn't there because he was maybe off on a Friday during the summer, his producers and his team, they always pushed you to give the full context.

Again, that's something that I think is going to be lost in the long term with his leaving Fox is I'm not sure there are that many reporters who are willing to give the fuller context unless they're pushed by an anchor to do so.


POWELL: It's easy to get airtime on Fox if you just toe the sort of conservative line in terms of the reporting there.

STELTER: A real cultural moment, and I think you're describing why this is so significant.

Conor, Carl, Julie, thank you so much for being here. [11:10:01]

Still to come, my new reporting on what's next for Shep.

And on deck, a unique look at just how much trouble President Trump is in. Douglas Brinkley, Sam Donaldson all standing by.

We'll be right back.


STELTER: Shep Smith called out President Trump's lies consistently. For that, he was praised by fellow journalists but disliked by many of Fox's viewers. In his signoff on Friday, he said, it's my hope that the facts will win the day.

But few other anchors and reporters at Fox feel like they can really aggressively counter Trump's nonstop noise. This is what they tell me anonymously. They say, yes, we do fact check Trump sometimes. But s one staffer said to me, almost none of us have the power that Shep had.

So, as for Shep, he had a non-complete clause in his contract, which means he cannot join another network right away. But his spokesman says, quote, he is not retiring. So, we will see that means.

Joining me is Amanda Marcotte. She's a writer, a politics writer for "Salon." David Zurawik is also standing by, coming in in a moment.

Amanda, what's your reaction to the news about Shep? Because, look, there's a paradox involved here. Fox viewers kind of didn't like Shep. He had the lowest rated show on the daytime lineup.

AMANDA MARCOTTE, POLITICS WRITER FOR SALON.COM: Yes. I mean, I think that shows that one of the biggest problems facing Fox News' news division and any effort to get news out to right-wing America, for lack of a better term, is that they don't want to hear it. I think that we're facing audiences that are rejecting the truth for ideological reasons. They prefer Donald Trump and his lies. They prefer Donald Trump and his, you know, lying Twitter feed, and they like Fox News best when it is echoing Donald Trump and his dishonesty.

STELTER: And viewers are going to say you're just being a smug liberal saying that. What's your proof?

MARCOTTE: I mean, like you said, Shep's show was the lowest rated show on Fox News. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson's is pulling millions of viewers a night. And you know, Tucker plays fast and loose with the facts. I think it's a fair thing to see.

STELTER: You know I was watching one of Trump's rallies live on Fox. It was striking to look at Trump's storytelling skills. I understand that most of the story he's telling is nonsense, to put it one way.

But he's selling a really appealing story about fighting the deep state, about fighting the Democrats. And I wonder if political pundits sometimes underestimate the storytelling power that both Trump and Fox have.

MARCOTTE: Yes. I mean, I think that it's hard for a lot of people that are not in that right-wing bubble to understand Trump's power over people because his story doesn't make sense to us. But I think what you're seeing is a lot of white conservative people who used to be the masters of the universe in this country, who used to control this country legally, politically, businesswise, culturally, and now are starting to see that hedge money threatened.

And Donald Trump tells them a story about how they're under assault by a bunch of villainous elites instead of the truth which is that their power is waning in the face of growing diversity.

STELTER: Yes. Let's bring in David Zurawik as well. He's in Washington. He's been thinking a lot about the Shep news and how it relates to President Trump, as well.

Look, President Trump criticized Shep. He would tweet against Shep. The president seems always to promote the opinion shows on Fox and attack the news division. For example, he attacked that Fox poll this week that showed impeachment getting a majority support among Americans.

So, David, your reaction?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, one of the things is, you know, with Trump doing that, it really can wear you down. I mean, some of your reporting, you talked about him, about Shep just wanting to move on. Maybe being tired of this.

You know, I heard some of that from Megyn Kelly when Trump went after her on social media. She was a star at Fox at that time, and then of course left. That's -- it creates -- it takes any sense of joy out of the business. When you have that -- it's not just the president. The president is driving many in the Fox base to be after you constantly on social media.

STELTER: Yes, yes.

ZURAWIK: And that's psychologically a problem.

And you know I don't blame Shep one bit for walking away from this if he can, you know, and obviously he can afford to do it with the contracts he's had the last few years --

STELTER: Fifteen 15 million. Yes. Yes.

ZURAWIK: But really, that's one of the ways Fox management getting into bed with Trump hurts the network long term. This is a severe blow to its credibility when you lose Shep.

And I'll tell you something else, we haven't -- that hasn't been much discussed, is it was -- you know, Fox likes to say, oh, during the day, it's all news, at night, it's opinion, blah, blah, blah. It isn't all news during the day. A lot of those shows, those news shows, look like news shows, but they're stacked with people who replicate the talking points of the White House or right-wing point of view.

He didn't do that. Maybe it was because he was a managing editor, but his show didn't have right-wing ringers on it giving talking points. And if they did, he went after them. That's another huge loss I think to Fox on this.

STELTER: We need more of that on the air, not less.

All right. Amanda, thank you. David, please stick around.

Quick break as we pivot to the impeachment probe that's going on. I want to ask what the press needs to learn from history. Douglas Brinkley and Sam Donaldson are next.



STELTER: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

As you've been seeing, news outlets are trying to explain all the threads of the impeachment inquiry by coming up with diagrams, flow charts, maps, you name it. We've been creating FAQs and explainers and Q&As. We've been launching new newsletters and podcasts.

There is certainly an appetite for news right now, but not everybody is equally hungry.

Here's "The Washington Post" noting a remarkable finding from a new Quinnipiac poll. The headline here is talking about it says people who pay attention -- people who are paying a lot of attention to the impeachment probe were more likely to say they want Trump impeached and removed. But, quote, those paying less attention were less likely to say they support impeachment.

Now, that's interesting.

Here to help us break it down is CNN Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley and legendary journalist Sam Donaldson, who was ABC's main Watergate correspondent and was a White House correspondent during Clinton's impeachment.

So, Sam -- Nixon, Clinton, Trump, what's different this time around?

SAM DONALDSON, LEGENDARY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not the same thing in the sense that the press' job is to point out what people say accurately, but if they say things that are not true and the press knows they're not true, not because of our opinions but because we have facts, you present the facts on the other side. And Trump has been called out repeatedly because he repeatedly misstates the facts.

I think that's what we need to do now. And don't be afraid of Fox. Don't be afraid of the people who support President Trump no matter what the facts are. They're either willfully ignorant about them or know about them but they don't care. We can't do anything for them except continue to do the job of the press.

When Nixon resigned, 24 percent of the American public said they still liked him, he was still a great president. There's always been this strain of American life. But they don't represent the country.

If Mr. Trump has, what, 30 percent, 31 percent of a strong base, we don't know exactly, but that's not the country.


The other 70 percent are out there.

And so, when I go to parties or elsewhere and people say, oh, he's going to be re-elected, I mean, look at those rallies, look at the people, the fervor and all of the things he says, they love it, treasonous Nancy Pelosi and all this -- I say, yes, his base loves it. The base is not the country, and it's not going to run the country.

STELTER: What you're saying reminds me of what we've been seeing all week long. Journalists have been trying to get Republicans on the record about where they stand, about whether Trump's conduct is acceptable or not.

And, Douglas, we need to know those answers.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Absolutely. I think the press has been amazing this week just following doggedly GOP lawmakers and asking them, what do you think about this, is it OK for an American president to encourage a foreign power to interfere in our domestic electoral system? And many of them won't answer. They hem and haw, and that's not going to look good in history.

I think the answer is I'm not for impeachment, I'm backing Donald Trump, but it was wrong for him to have spoken as he did to the Ukrainian president. Alas, it's good that journalists have to keep pushing the Republicans to go on the record right now, just like they did during the Watergate era.

STELTER: And are you seeing lots of patriotic Republicans coming forward? Speaking out? What are you seeing?

BRINKLEY: It's Mitt Romney and a lot of people that are afraid to tell the truth right now on what they really feel. The Republicans are in hiding mode. They're trying to figure out how to play this right now.

They're so worried about Donald Trump's anger and it being tweeted about -- he's been effective at showing I will punish you if you break ranks with me in any way, shape, or form.

What's interesting is the role Mitch McConnell's plying here and Donald Trump kind of unravel unraveling, constantly needing to call Mitch McConnell for reassurance, because Trump obviously knows that Congress is going to move forward eventually here and impeach him. But he has the backstop of the Senate and can live for another day. After all, Brian, Bill Clinton probably could have won the election in

2000 even though he was impeached in 1998. And Andrew Johnson left in the 1860s to go back to Tennessee as an impeached president but ran for the U.S. Senate and won.

That's to Sam's point that Nixon had a fan base. Trump still will have his fan base even if he's wearing the eye.

STELTER: Sam, you've said you think this is a more dangerous time than the Nixon years. Do you think the press is making mistakes? Are we accurately conveying how dangerous it is?

DONALDSON: Well, yes, the press makes mistakes. I've made mistakes. You try correct them.

But you call out things that are not true because you have the facts. And you present them to the American public.

Now, Mitch McConnell is in a tight race, tighter than he thought, in Kentucky. And he's watching the polls, and he's watching the people that he thinks are going to support him. I'm going to tell you something, if the 71 -- rather, 51 percent polled that Fox put on that said the impeachment anger is rising against Trump, if it continues to rise, Mitch McConnell will throw him over. These Republicans will suddenly decide, well, we've been conned, how could we be fooled?


DONALDSON: I'm telling you something, if public opinion is strongly for the impeachment and the conviction of President Trump, he will be convicted in the Senate with the Republican help.

STELTER: So, you listen to the Trump rallies, you think there is not representative of all of America. You think it's important for us to see that.

DONALDSON: No, the Trump rallies are Trump's -- his strong supporters. I mean, lock her up, I mean, all the things he says, all the vicious, mean things he says, they love it. There are these people in this country.

They're good Americans otherwise. They'll probably give you the shirt off their back, they'll help you if you need, but they have this fixation. They want to return this country to the white Christian country that they believe it should be again. They don't want the diversity, and they follow him for this, but they're not the country.

We are a diverse people. We are good and strong because of that, and we're going to come back to that, I assure you.

STELTER: I like the optimism, Sam. Thank you.

Sam Donaldson, Douglas Brinkley, thank you both for being here.

We have a lot more coming up including a really important fact check. Trump spreading falsehoods about U.S. troops in Syria. [11:30:00]


STELTER: Earlier this week, President Trump made the following comments to reporters about the deteriorating situation in Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, we have no soldiers in Syria. We've won. We beat ISIS and we beat them badly and decisively. We have no soldiers.


STELTER: We have no soldiers in Syria. Now, CNN's team fact-check to this and said the United States still has about 1,000 soldiers in Syria. The President of the United States getting those facts wrong. Well, now the situation in northern Syria is deteriorating rapidly. In the words of CNN's Jim Sciutto, Turkey has been given free rein by President Trump to slaughter Kurdish fighters who were loyal U.S. allies.

The President is being widely criticized right now and the situation as it gets worse is causing the U.S. to take action. Just today, the U.S. Defense Secretary is saying that we are preparing to evacuate 1,000 troops, those thousand troops that President Trump said weren't there. Watch.


MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.


STELTER: What forces? Again, Trump said this on Thursday.


TRUMP: We have no soldiers in Syria.


STELTER: Look, he was wrong. I get it. Maybe he just misspoke, maybe it was innocent. But if so, that is also part of the problem. Joining me now to discuss this is Peter Wehner. He's a VP at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the author of the book The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.

And Peter, I'm pulling out a really specific one-time misstatement by the president to make a larger point which is that, you know, as you've written, Trump's words are poison. He doesn't seem to be well. This is a situation where life-and-death stakes are very clear in Syria and yet we don't know what to believe from the President.

PETER WEHNER, VICE PRESIDENT, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Well, that's right. That's a problem when the president is going out and lying all the time and getting his facts wrong all the time. Sometimes you can't tell which is -- which is which but the bottom line is the -- is the same.

And this is a man who has no interest in governing, no interest in reality, no interest in the state of the world. And what's going on now in Syria is extraordinary. And the radiating effects, the collateral damage of this is going to be tremendous.

There's a humanitarian cost. We're seeing a massacre, we may see a genocide of the Kurds who were such terrific allies, really intrepid allies of ours. ISIS prisoners are going to be released, the region is going to be destabilized. America's trustworthiness is being blown apart.

So this is really, really bad. But it goes to a core problem with Donald Trump which is he's not well and he's not -- he's not equipped to be President the United States, but he is.


STELTER: James Mattis today on Meet The Press warned about ISIS returning. There's all these reports about ISIS-linked fighters breaking out of prisons in northern Syria. He said, if we don't keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It's absolutely a given that they will come back. And this is someone who worked for President Trump.

WEHNER: Yes. I mean, this is almost a mathematical equation. The Kurds were the ones who were -- who were watching over the prisoners, the ISIS prisoners. Now they're under assault by the -- by the Turks. So, of course, the ISIS prisoners are being released. They're being released even as we speak.

This is going to happen more. It's probably going to be in the range of 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 ISIS prisoners, and they're going to be tremendous human consequences to that. There's going to be, you know, blood because of this, lives are going to be lost because of it.

And again, for no reason, Donald Trump didn't get anything. It was just that he had a phone call with an authoritarian dictator who says jump and Trump says how high.

STELTER: Well, he says he's ending the endless wars while at the same time sending 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia.

WEHNER: Exactly.

STELTER: Let me talk to you about your column where you say Trump is not well. Because this is a conversation that is only gingerly had on television most of the time. There's still people, there's still a lot of tiptoeing going on about the President's behavior, his misbehavior. How do the press needs to be covering this while still being fair?

WEHNER: Well, I do think they have to cover it and fairness requires making an objective assessment of the facts and the reality of things and covering it. This idea that you do not cover Donald Trump's psychological and emotional state strikes me as bizarre.

There's more to a president than what he says he's going to check the policy box as we make judgments about wisdom, and prudence, and character. And of course, you should make a judgment on a person psychological state. He's not psychologically or emotionally well. He has a disordered personality. I think that's almost beyond of the point of dispute to any objective individual. Are we supposed to not cover it?

STELTER: So how do you think Trump supporters see through it? How do you think they excuse it? How is right-wing media excuse it then?

WEHNER: Well, it's a complicated -- it's a complicated thing because we're so tribalistic today and the things are so polarized that anybody that criticizes Trump, that they just reflexively defend him because they feel like the enemies of Trump are their enemies and that the critics of Trump have contempt for them and in many cases they're right.

And so they go into their tribalistic enclaves and decide to protect. And look, I've had countless conversations with Trump supporters. You know, I've been a lifelong Republican. I've served in three Republican administrations so I have a lot of contact.

And a lot of my conversations are actually to hear or listen to people to see where they're coming from. But it's pretty -- it's pretty extraordinary. There -- it is almost like a hermetically sealed world. And facts are like BB's, they just bouncing off of a brick wall. They just don't -- they don't penetrate.

I think one of the reasons they don't penetrate is there's something called the psychology of accommodation which is people decided early on for variety of reasons to accommodate themselves to Donald Trump. I think some of them thinking that things would get better, that he would grow in office, that he'd be surrounded by good people. He's gotten worse.

But having made that accommodation early on, they didn't feel like they could get off. And now it's not just a defense of Trump, it's a defense of their defensive Trump. And so to indict him is to indict themselves and to indict their own judgment. And that's hard for any human being.

And Trump supporters are not doing it. They will defend him you know regardless of what happens come hell or high water.

STELTER: Peter, thanks for being here. Check out Peter's columns for the New York Times and the Atlantic. We've been talking about Trump's enemies -- I think we're going to hear more from them on Tuesday. The President portrays Democrats as his enemies. And the Democrats are going to be on stage before this debate Tuesday night. It's a CNN New York Times co-sponsored debate in Ohio, Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN.

Up next here on the program, Ronan Farrow's highly anticipated book Catch and Kill hasn't come out yet, it's out on Tuesday, but already there's new controversy at NBC as a result. We'll talk about what it means for the network right after a quick break.



STELTER: This book Catch and Kill is the number one seller on Amazon and it's not even out until Tuesday. There's a lot of interest in pre-orders because Ronan Farrow has a lot of bombshells in this book. It's called Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.

He describes his reporting of a Harvey Weinstein and how he says NBC tried to shut him down to kill his scoops about Weinstein and Weinstein's misconduct over the years. He suggests in the book that Weinstein used his knowledge of Matt Lauer's behavior as leverage with the network.

So here's what both sides are saying. Farrow says that NBC committed a "corporate cover-up." His reporting on Harvey Weinstein was shut down for inappropriate reasons. Farrow says the network's own secrets weighed on the judgments. Farrow says that Weinstein claimed to have a deal with NBC executives. And Farrow says some of those executives have skeletons in their own closets, inappropriate behavior in their own pasts.


Now, here's what NBC says. They say there was no deal with Weinstein. They say that would be ridiculous and unethical. they say Farrow's reporting did not meet the standards for broadcast and that's why they let him walk over to the New Yorker with it. They say Farrow did not have a single on camera, on the record interview with a Weinstein accuser.

They say that Farrow's book uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture. And they also say they cleaned up the house. They say in the past two years we have taken significant steps to improve our culture.

Farrow has a lot in this book including the first on the record interview with the woman who said she was raped by Matt Lauer in 2014 which Lauer firmly denies. She says that incident derailed her life. Here to size up what's going on is New York Magazine Senior Correspondent and CNN Contributor Irin Carmon and David Zurawik is back with me as well.

Irin, you've been reporting on the MeToo Movement and breaking stories about CBS and other outlets. What do you make of NBC's handling of this?

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Brian, I have likened the experience of both reporting on sexual harassment and assault and learning from other reporters, the kinds of things that are happening behind closed doors, to the movie Get Out, to this precise moment where Allison Williams who the character has trusted all along dingles the keys.

At every corner, we are seeing either complicity or a replication of the same kind of attitudes that wrote -- that underpinned sexual harassment and assault. And so I think my question -- and I worked at NBC and there's a lot of people that I really respect there. I think that they deserve to know exactly who knew what, when. They deserve accountability.

There was never an independent investigation at NBC in contrast to CBS which I reported on which hired a law firm to do an independent investigation. It wasn't a perfect process but you can see that at CBS there are many new faces steering the ship. At NBC, we really have yet to have a full accounting.

And Ronan Farrow is now pulling back the curtain to give us a sense of just how much these executives were themselves participating in this system that commodified young female journalists, looked another way while Matt Lauer took advantage to them. These were young women who were showing up because they wanted to be journalists, because they wanted to do the job, and they deserve better too.

STELTER: There's always been these questions about who knew what, when at NBC about Lauer. The network always says there was never a formal complaint. Here's Andy Lack's statement again from this week saying that when they learned about what Matt Lauer had allegedly done in 2014, then he was fired within 24 hours.

The statement goes on -- and so he says here, any suggestion that we tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer's conduct is absolutely false and offensive. David Zurawik, your reaction.

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE TIMES: I love it when they say it's offensive. Brian, I never bought -- for not a second did I buy that they didn't know what was going on with Matt Lauer. He was making a lot of money for him in the most important day part. And the notion just voiced that they looked the other way is the kindest thing that you can say about him.

And now after Farrow's book about these incidents, I laugh in their face when they tell me how committed they are to a diverse workplace and to protecting women who come into the workplace. This is outrageous.

You know the account of the way -- look in fairness to NBC, let me say this. When you are doing the story, when you know powerful people are going to come at you with everything you have, sometimes a young reporter, sometimes any reporter thinks they're slow-walking it when they're just being careful. But this went way beyond it

He took what they told him was unacceptable after they told him and his producer to stop reporting. He took it over to The New Yorker and it won a Pulitzer Prize. How do they keep doing this crisis management talk in the wake of that? As journalists, we know exactly what that is.

STELTER: Well, their claim -- yes, their claim is that he came up with new sources once he arrived at The New Yorker. But here's what Farrow says about the Weinstein reporting he was doing at NBC and why maybe it was tabled by the network.

He says, there was no doubt that the allegations against Lauer and NBC's wider use of non-disclosures with women who experienced harassment were under threat of exposure during our reporting. He says that precarious culture of secrecy made NBC more vulnerable to Weinstein's intimidation and enticement.

So we know Weinstein was badgering that work trying to get this story shut down. That's been very clear. NBC says that didn't matter though. The pressure campaign didn't matter. Irin, what's interesting here is Farrow is suggesting maybe it was NBC's own secrets that made the network a little bit nervous here.

CARMON: Right. I mean, it would appear that they were throwing stones from a Matt Lauer glasshouse. But you know what I think is really interesting here, Brian, here we are two years later. The Today Show has female co-hosts leading the way, right? It's doing just fine.

This was actually an executive suite delusion that Matt Lauer was so valuable that they had to look the other way as he abused his power in the workforce. Look at how great the show is doing without him. And I think we really need to step back.

You know, my colleague Rebecca Traister has written brilliantly about the fact that we need to contend with these people who are shaping our narratives, they're covering allegations of sexual assault at the Supreme Court, they're covering female presidential candidates. What does it mean that these are their attitudes towards women? That they are disposable, that they are commodities, that they are to be demeaned.

And so I think that the second reckoning has to be who knew what, when, and it has to be really understanding that this is not the individual behavior but that all of our news narratives are being shaped by these men. And only now that a few of them are gone can we see that, right? But I don't think that that process is over by any means.


STELTER: Well, he doesn't have -- he doesn't have a smoking gun that proves that like, for example, NBC was blackmailed by Weinstein. There's none of that smoking gun. There's just an accumulation of a lot of different pieces of evidence. And I think that's why he's going to be arguing as he's doing interviews in the coming week. David, real quick, last word for you.

ZURAWIK: Brian, it doesn't matter why they did it. We know he -- they shut down his reporting. And the big important thing about this book I think historically is it's a granular account of what it takes when you take on patriarchy. All of these women -- it's a titanic struggle. The women's stories are trying to come out and the men are trying not to be held to this reckoning and Ronan Farrow is in the middle of it trying to bring these voices out.

You know, 50 years from now and people say oh patriarchy ended, like somebody just got up one day and said oh let's stop patriarchy. These are the warriors. Those women are in the frontlines of this battle and Ronan Farrow walked with them and told their stories. It's of war. It's a war. It's not going to end tomorrow. That's not the way patriarchy ends. It's as old as the Old Testament.

You know what it takes to bring these guys down, Weinstein, NBC? What was just said about the men shaping the narratives? That's absolutely true. The powerful shape the narratives and he took them on and told his narrative, and these women's narratives so well that they're shaking in their boots right now.

STELTER: David, Irin, thank you. Everybody, read our full coverage of this book at We'll take a quick break here. We have breaking news from Syria in just a moment.



STELTER: Breaking news coming out of Syria now. As we've mentioned, a deteriorating situation there as Turkish forces are pushing further south into Syria. Last week, the country launched this long- threatened incursion into the country after President Trump ordered a small bunch of U.S. troops, 50 of them, to be pulled back from the border area.

Now President Trump says he's withdrawing -- now the Defense Secretary says they are withdrawing a greater number of those troops. And there's breaking news in just now from the Kurdish news agency AHNA. They're releasing a statement saying that at least one journalist has been killed during this Turkish military operation.

The correspondence name Assad al Amad. He was killed reportedly while accompanying a convoy of civilians. This was while covering this story. Apparently, another journalist was also injured in this incident. Again, a worrisome disturbing situation in northern Syria. CNN's coverage will continue, but that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We'll see you back here next week.